Dispute over multi-million pound development plans at Sheffield church

Christ Church, Fulwood and its church hall.
Christ Church, Fulwood and its church hall.
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A row has broken out over £2 million plans to build a glazed walkway between a Sheffield church and its hall.

Leaders at Christ Church Fulwood said it needed to build the walkway to increase capacity at the facility and bring it from the 19th century into the 21st.

But those living near the site are concerned that the proposals would see graves honouring those killed in the First World War moved to make way for the development.

Tim Cudmore, director of ministry at the church, said: "Christ Church Fulwood is one of the largest churches in the country with well over 1,000 people attending services on a Sunday.

"The proposed building project is about moving a community asset from he 19th century to the 21st century and making our buildings more accessible."

Mr Cudmore said the scheme would cost "in excess of £2 million" if approved, which was being entirely funded by the congregation.

"The site is heavily used. The church hall is used every day but the main church stands empty for most of the week so we want to open it up to the community."

Mr Cudmore also said claims by residents that First World War graves would be "demolished" were not true and that only one will be moved within the church grounds, with the consent of relatives.

"There will be no First World War graves bulldozed," he said.

"We have worked hard following agreed processes and have contacted all of the next of kin and have permission from them and the Sheffield Diocese. We are not doing anything that create upset for the relatives."

But Paul Bradwell, 48, who lives across from the church said he was "horrified" when he saw the application, which has been submitted to Sheffield Council.

He said: "They've obviously put some work into it but the walkway would carve straight through the graveyard, which contains First World War memorial stones.

"It's fairly unnecessary. By the time you cross between one and the other, you barely notice the weather."

As well as the glazed walkway, the proposals also include a new paved courtyard and the siting of a marquee in the church car park for the duration of the construction of the project.

Mr Bradwell added: "The walkway is fairly unnecessary. By time time you cross between one and the other, you barely notice the weather.

"Living near the site I have my own private issues with the site, which I will make clear in my objection to the application but, from a public point of view, I think it's such a tragedy to just get rid of the gravestones.

"We are all too young to know much about the First World War apart from what we have read but those men are the reason we are here."

A design and access statement submitted with the application said proposals also included the demolition of part of the boundary wall on Canterbury Avenue and new entrance foyers to both the church and hall.

It said the current facilities at the church were "completely inadequate for the number of people using the site" and that the proposals were necessary so "that this growing and thriving church can continue to train leaders, serve the wider church and make a significant contribution to the surrounding community".

A spokesman for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission said it had been consulted throughout the process.

He said the proposals would "potentially affect" one war grave - that of Major E W Longden - but added the CWGC had been told the burial would not be affected but the headstone would be moved elsewhere in the churchyard.

He added: "There are a number of options being discussed as to where the most appropriate location for this might be and would hope to hold some form of formal ceremony when this is complete.

"We believe this solution secures the integrity of the burial and also provides for an appropriate form of commemoration to this brave man."